What You Need to Know About Medical Bankruptcy

Medical bankruptcy is very possible, here's how to avoid it.
| 5 min read Fundraising Strategy

For families or individuals who need emergency dental treatment, or opt to have a surgery in the private system when the public waitlist is too long, you may very suddenly find yourself needing financial help to avoid medical bankruptcy. For some Australians, costs like these can be an unthinkable setback.

From negotiating lower payments to using crowdfunding, this article offers seven tips on how to avoid medical bankruptcy and how to manage medical debt if you already have it.

Medical bankruptcy statistics to know

AImost 10% of all bankruptcies are tied to medical issues in Australia, according to the Australian Financial Security Authority. While Medicare covers many treatments, dental and private hospital surgeries are not included in that list. These high medical care costs can lead people to cut corners in their healthcare management, or go for the surgery without organising a payment plan – leaving them with a huge bill at the time they’re meant to be focusing on recovery.

How to avoid medical bankruptcy and find relief from debt

While statistics about medical bankruptcy can be frightening, it’s important to remember that there are ways to find financial relief. When you don’t know how to clear medical debt, keep these seven tips in mind.

1. Don’t ignore the bills

Do medical bills affect your credit score? Just like regular bills, your credit score can plummet if you toss medical bills in a drawer and put off paying them. It’s important to notify hospitals, health providers and insurers right away if you think a payment will be late or if you want to request a payment plan.

Paying a portion of your bill, even a small amount, is still better than making no payment at all — it keeps you on better terms with the recipient. If you don’t have the funds available to make a payment on time, ask about financial assistance initiatives that may be available to you.

2. Double check your medical bills

Always ask for an itemised statement so you can look for billing errors. These are more common than you might think and they could end up costing you thousands of dollars if left unchecked. If you have questions about your bills, don’t be afraid to contact your medical provider and ask for clarification. Make sure that all payments from both you or your insurance company have been applied to your bill.

3. Negotiate a lower rate

This may seem like a daunting task, but it’s certainly worth trying. Call the billing office and ask if they’d accept a lower rate for your care. They may not return your calls right away and you may hear “no” a few times, but being persistent can pay off. You can also sometimes get lower rates for paying cash or paying in a way they favour.

4. Put away your credit cards

Some may argue that swiping plastic is the leading cause of bankruptcies. Whether or not that’s true across the board, it’s best to avoid using credit cards to pay for your medical expenses, as it only adds compound interest to injury. It’s illegal for hospitals to deny you medical treatment, so don’t rush to use a credit card if that’s the only form of payment you have at the moment. You can work out a payment plan with the hospital later.

5. Apply for financial assistance

Many hospitals offer emergency financial assistance programs for those who are struggling to pay off overwhelming medical bills. If you’re unemployed, uninsured or simply need extra financial help, then looking into assistance from your hospital may be a good place to start. Most financial assistance programmes require you to fill out a comprehensive application and provide proof of your financial situation.

6. Consider taking out a bank loan

Applying for a bank loan has often been the go-to solution for people in need of money they don’t have. While this solution is a reliable way to receive money, keep in mind that applying and qualifying for a loan can take time. It also means paying an interest rate on top of the total loan amount.

7. Use fundraising to get rid of medical debt

Crowdfunding is a proven way to raise funds quickly from family, friends and even strangers who want to show their support. Creating a medical fundraiser gives you an outlet to tell your story and can keep you from falling into medical bankruptcy. While it’s always hard to ask for help, you might be surprised by the number of friends and family members who want to help you figure out how to get rid of debt.

Millions have turned to GoFundMe when they weren’t sure how to get rid of medical debt. Our fundraising model means you can keep more of the funds you raise and reach your fundraising goal faster and our sharing tools make it easy to spread the word on social media. These are just a few of our posts related to medical costs and fundraising:

Find relief from medical debt today

Crowdfunding through GoFundMe means you don’t have to face your medical debt alone. Others can join you on our health journey and help you get back on your feet. If you need some tips to get started, read our medical crowdfunding guide. When you’re ready, sign up to create your fundraiser and find medical debt relief today.

Start a medical fundraiser

Written by Jenna Davis

Asking for help is never easy, but it's my hope that our resources make it a bit easier and empower individuals and organizations to reach their fundraising goals. I believe we can create a better future through generosity and compassion—all it takes is a little bit of support from each of us.